Ariz. cops to get robots to help in dangerous situations

Three remotely controlled robots will conduct high-risk activities

Joyce Lobeck
The Sun

YUMA, Ariz. — Robotics is coming to the Yuma Police Department, and to Chief John Lekan it’s kind of like a Christmas present, one that will help keep his officers safe in potentially dangerous situations.

According to an agreement approved by the Yuma City Council Wednesday, YPD will receive $77,475 in federal money to purchase three remotely controlled robots to conduct high risk activities.

Lekan said he received a phone call from Arizona Homeland Security about the availability of the dollars and asked if he wanted them.

“Absolutely, if it helps keep my officers safe,” was his response. And he wants to have the robots in the YPD tool box by December.

The tactical robots can be used to assist with serving high-risk warrants, responding to barricaded subjects, remotely communicating with potentially hostile subjects, searching for missing persons in dangerous situations, investigating suspicious packages and vehicles, monitoring large perimeters, and checking areas for hazards such as a booby trap, bomb or vicious animal.

Lekan said YPD currently has one robot, a small one that is used as a listening and visual device “so we can hear and see what is going on inside in a potentially dangerous situation.”

The three new robots will be larger and able to climb stairs and navigate over obstacles. Cameras or moveable claws can be attached for added capabilities “so we’re not sending in a person until the room is cleared.”

The robots will be made available to other law enforcement agencies in the area, Lekan said.

Mayor Al Krieger voted no to the agreement, as he did on other action items that also involved use of federal dollars. His nay votes followed concerns he had expressed during Tuesday’s work session that accepting the funds might pave the way for the state and federal governments to dictate to the city.

Those other action items included:

• Other agreements related to the purchase of the robots.

• An agreement between the Arizona Department of Homeland Security and YPD for the purchase of mobile data computers and portable radio equipment in the amount of $78,355 in support of Operation Stonegarden.

• An agreement for the city to continue to support the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area Corporation.

The mayor also opposed an intergovernmental agreement for the city to provide roadway maintenance services for the city of Somerton. Krieger said there are a number of private sector businesses that could provide those services, business that pay construction taxes and provide jobs.

“It seems like this is putting us in direct competition with them,” he said.

Other council members, however, said they think it is a good will gesture to help other cities in the area.

Copyright 2012 The Sun, Freedom Communications


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